Freaking Out

Freaking Out

Lately, I’ve had a hard time sleeping.

I’ve also been coming home every night after work, planting myself in front of the computer, and reading every news story on Facebook.

But I’m sure those two aren’t related.

Democrat or Republican, alt-left or alt-right, I think we can agree that the recent news cycle has been like riding an old, rickety roller coaster you’re sure is going to come apart at any moment. All you can do is close your eyes and pray the wheels don’t come off.

There’s so much passion, so much anger, so many different opinions, that I feel like I’m drowning in them.

What news should I listen to? When do I react and when do I overreact? What is really a problem and what is getting swept up in the tidal wave of panic?

My work friend, Gus, suggested that to reflect the state of our nation, we should stop making a TV show and instead just film one person standing in front of a camera, screaming and flailing their arms.

“We’ll right back after this commercial, with your favorite new program, ‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!’”

Last weekend, my parents came to visit.

I wanted to have a relaxing time with them, I wanted to focus and enjoy just being together but I couldn’t stop thinking about politics. Was I was missing something important? Was there an article I should be reading? Was there a protest I was supposed to be at? Was there a Facebook fight to get in?

My parents were concerned.

I consider my father a Republican of the oldest order – a man who is fiscally conservative but thinks the government should keep their hands off people’s personal lives – whether that means making him wear a seat belt or dictating what a woman can do with her body.

As he told me when I was a little girl, “It’s none of their damn business.“

My dad is a fantastic listener and doesn’t feel fenced in by any particular party line. If he doesn’t agree with it, he won’t vote for it just because his party tells him to.

 “Turn off the news,” he told me at dinner. “Give yourself a break.”

But there were so many things happening. I had to pay attention. I was like a junkie who knew the drugs were killing me but it was the only way I felt alive.

My mom – the first feminist I ever knew – pointed out that there’s a difference between being informed and being overwhelmed. The only person I’m hurting with all this stress is myself. 

 “And you know,” my dad said, “there are good people on both sides of this thing.”

Are there? Because it’s so easy to believe there aren’t.

It’s exactly what many of the news outlets want you to believe. It’s definitely how Facebook makes it feel.

But my parents are right. Sometimes you need to step back and take a breath. I’m no good to anyone – or any cause – if I’m not good to myself.  

I would rather sit down over coffee and have a real conversation with someone, rather then see their opinions boiled down to a headline on their profile page.

I’m not going to stop standing up for what I believe in, I’m not going to stop being informed, but I also refuse to be crushed by this – it won’t take me down, it won’t eat me alive.

That evening in bed, I deleted Facebook from my phone and promised myself I’d only check it once every day or two.

And then, in defiance, I slept.


This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.

Photo by Jason Elias

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